Re: [xmca] Empirical Evidence for ZPD

From: Martin Packer (
Date: Sun Dec 03 2006 - 14:30:42 PST


I would very much like to get clearer on Vygotsky's use of both Hegel and
Lenin. Perhaps you can help me?

For example, in Pedology of the Adolescent (around 1931) V wrote on concept
development, and in particular on counting and the number concept. It seems
to me he oscillates between a simple view in which the concrete is primitive
and the abstract is advanced, and a very different view in which seemingly
abstract concepts are actually a reorganization of the relationship between
concrete and abstract: "a completely new form of relation between abstract
and concrete factors in thinking arises, a new form of their merging and
synthesis" (p. 39). The latter strikes me as distinctly Hegelian. The former
seems to come up when Vygotsky refers to Hegel. But my reading must be too
naïve, because on page 79 we find V citing Lenin citing Hegel!

First on concepts: The young child’s perception of number “is based on
number images, on concrete perception of form and size of a given number of
objects. With [the] transition to thinking in concepts, the child is
liberated from purely concrete numerical thinking. In place of a number
image, a number concept appears. If we compare the concept of number with a
number image, at first glance it may seem to justify [the] premises of
formal logic relative to the extreme poverty in content of the concept in
comparison with the riches of the concrete content contained in the image”
(vol 5, 78)
But Vygotsky immediately continues: “Actually, this is not so. The concept
not only excludes from its content a number of points proper to the concrete
perception, but for the first time, it also discloses in the concrete
perception a number of such points that are completely inaccessible to
direct perception or contemplation, points that are introduced by thinking
and are identified through processing the data of experience and synthesized
into a single whole with elements of direct perception.

“Thus all number concepts, for example, the concept ‘7,’ are included in a
complex number system, occupy a certain place in it, and when this concept
is found and processed, then all the complex connections and relations that
exist between this concept and the rest of the system of concepts in which
it is included are given. The concept not only reflects reality, but also
systematizes it, includes data of concrete perception into a complex system
of connections and relations, and discloses the connections and relations
that are inaccessible to simple comprehension. For this reason many
properties of size become clear and perceptible only when we begin to think
of them in concepts” (78-79)
This is all rather nice. But then, surprisingly, comes a footnote quoting
Lenin on Hegel!
Lenin: “In opposition to Kant, Hegel was essentially completely correct.
Thinking going from the concrete to the abstract does not deviate – if it is
correct… from truth, but approaches it. The abstraction of material, a law
of nature, abstraction of value, etc., in a word, all scientific (correct,
serious, not foolish) abstractions reflect nature more deeply, more
reliably, more fully. From a living contemplation to abstract thinking and
from it to practice – such is the dialectical path of recognizing truth,
recognizing objective reality” (Complete Works, Vol. 29, pp. 152-153). [Vol.
29 is March – Aug 1919]

So here, apparently, are Vygotsky, Hegel and Lenin all agreeing that
reflection is an active way of thinking which gets beyond appearances to
essences, systematizes concrete detail, grasps complex interconnections,
recognizes objective reality, achieves truth, and guides practice!

I've tried to find this excerpt from Lenin on, but without


On 12/3/06 4:58 PM, "Andy Blunden" <> wrote:

> I don't know, Paul. I guess I would ask you to give me page references to
> justify this observation.
> The Lenin of the 1914/15 Notebooks certainly reads as a very different
> character from the Lenin of the 1908 ME&C, but I am sure that if Lenin had
> anywhere in those Notebooks made any kind of self-criticism of his 1908
> position I would have noticed it. The same Trotskyist group which spent
> countless hours bashing M&EC into my head spent even more hours bashing
> "Volume 38" into my head, and it was this experience which prompted me to
> make my own study of Hegel.
> As to Ilyenkov, yes, Ilyenkov has been my guiding light to get out of the
> dogmatism of M&EC. The problem is that while A&C and the Essays are at odds
> with M&EC, Ilyenkov chooses to back Lenin to the hilt when he writes a book
> about M&EC. As I said, there is nothing actually incorrect in M&EC; it
> just, IMO, makes the wrong call in terms of emphasis and what is said/not
> said. I am not aware that anywhere Ilyenkov said something like "M&EC was a
> bad book".
> Andy
> At 06:07 AM 3/12/2006 -0800, you wrote:
>> Andy,
>> Isn't it the case that Lenin rejected his early position of M&EC in the
>> Philosophic Notebooks and his study of Hegel's logic? Also, isn't
>> Ilyenkov's position in 'From the Abstract to the Concrete' also at odds
>> with the position in M&EC?
>> Paul
>> Andy Blunden <> wrote:
>> Can I see if I can say what I think Mike means by the "Russian" meaning of
>> "reflection"?
>> I was introduced both to Lenin and Vygotsky through a British Trotskyist
>> group in the early 1980s, and this involved intensive study of Lenin's
>> "Materialism and Empirio-criticism". This book was regarded in that quarter
>> as more or less the last word in philosophy. Ilyenkov's book on Positivism,
>> was published in English by the same group, and is a full-on defence of
>> this book of Lenin's. In M&EC, Lenin uses "reflection" to mean a universal
>> property of matter, more or less the propensity of any material thing to
>> retain impressions of another material thing with which it has interacted.
>> So this view of cognition as something utterly divorced from
>> self-consciousness or even living organisms, let alone human beings, but
>> rather as a universal property of matter, was encoded in the meaning
>> attached by Lenin to the word "reflection."
>> Now, my experiences in British Trotskyism may have been paralleled by the
>> experience of others in Russian Stalinism, I don't know. But much as I love
>> Ilyenkov, it has always been hard for me to understand his enthusiasm for
>> M&EC. The political effect of ME&C as I received it was very
>> retrograde. In the same book, Lenin blasts all forms of semiotics, by the
>> way. There was a definite and valid purpose for Lenin's book when it was
>> written in 1908, and he doesn't say anything in the whole several hundred
>> pages which is actually wrong, but the drift of the polemic is crushing. In
>> arguing against subjectivist epistemology, it encourages an absolutely
>> devastatingly objectivist view of the human condition in general and
>> cognition in particular.
>> Personally, I find the notion of "reflection" an extremely *passive*
>> rendering of the process of knowledge and life. The idea emphasises the
>> dominant place of the object in a true subjective image, and the
>> indifference of the image to the internal structure of the subject, but I
>> have never found that it convinced anyone that didn't already understand
>> these issues. The likening of human society to inorganic natural processes
>> is not a point which needs to be made today.
>> Is that what you meant Mike?
>> Andy
>> At 10:59 PM 2/12/2006 -0500, you wrote:
>>> Agreed!
>>> The version of 'The Historical Meaning of the Crisis in Psychology' that I
>>> have to hand is in 'The Esssential Vygostky' (2004, R. W. Rieber & D. K.
>>> Robinson, eds. Kluger). It's a compilation of the 'best' of the 6 vol
>>> Collected Works. The mirror example is on page 327.
>>> Regarding reflection, which is another concept I'm puzzled by (what is the
>>> Russian manner, Mike?), I'd forgotten that this paragraph begins:
>>> "Let us compare consciousness, as is often done, with a mirror image..." At
>>> the end of the paragraph I still can't tell whether V is suggesting it's a
>>> good comparison or not.
>>> ...and 3 pages earlier (p. 324) when he cites Lenin (1975, p. 260) along the
>>> lines that I've mentioned, here again the work reflection is used:
>>> "the only 'property' of matter connected with philosophical materialism is
>>> the property of being an objective reality, of existing outside of our
>>> consciousness.... Epistemologically the concept of matter means NOTHING
>>> other than objective reality, existing independently from human
>>> consciousness and reflected by it" (original emphasis).
>>> I can't find the references from the Crisis anywhere in this book, but I
>>> have the Spanish translation now too, and the citation there is to Lenin's
>>> Collected Works, vol 19, p. 275. In Spanish the word 'reflected' is
>>> translated as 'reflejada' and 'mirror image' as 'reflejo.'
>>> Martin
>>> On 12/2/06 10:40 PM, "Mike Cole" wrote:
>>>> Nothing sceptical, Martin. There are many imponderables here from
>>>> many
>>> sources. Trying to think with you.
>>> I would be greatly assisted, and I
>>>> assume I am not alone in this, if
>>> discussants would provide page numbers
>>>> and
>>> references so that those not "in the know" could pin down sources and
>>>> thus
>>> better triangulate on what the focus
>>> of discussion is.
>>> I am not versed
>>>> in Spinoza. I am barely versed in parts of Vygotsky. So when
>>> arcaine
>>>> references and partial information
>>> are floated out on xmca as if everyone were
>>>> an insider, when we are all
>>> border liners, it confuses me.
>>> mike
>>> On 12/2/06,
>>>> Martin Packer
>> wrote:
>>>> Mike, this sounds to me like a
>>>> skeptical Hmmmm. What strikes you as
>>>> dubious?
>>>> I'm happy to be
>>>> mediated.
>>>> Martin
>>>> On 12/2/06 6:03 PM, "Mike Cole"
>>>> wrote:
>>>>> Hmmmm indeed.
>>>> mike
>>>> On 12/2/06,
>>>> Martin Packer
>> wrote:
>>>>> Natalia, thanks very much.
>>>> The cyrillic didn't come through, but I can
>>>>> piece
>>>>> together the
>>>> English:
>>>>> "after all a cornerstone of materialism is a
>>>>> proposition
>>>> about (that)
>>>>> consciousness and the brain are, both, a product
>>>>> (of
>>>> nature), (and) a part
>>>>> of nature, (the one) that reflects the rest of
>>>> nature"
>>>>> Might you be able to take a look at the other two excerpts in
>>>> the
>>>>> original
>>>>> Russian?
>>>>> Let me think about this 'out loud' a
>>>> little. This is
>>>>> the point in Crisis
>>>>> where Vygotsky is specifying what
>>>> a truly Marxist
>>>>> psychology, a 'general'
>>>>> psychology, must study. A
>>>> science, he insists,
>>>>> studies not appearances but
>>>>> what really exists.
>>>> Optics, for example, studies
>>>>> mirror surfaces and light
>>>>> rays, not the
>>>> images we see in the mirror, for the
>>>>> latter are phantoms. A
>>>>> scientific
>>>> psychology must study the real processes
>>>>> that can give rise to
>>>>> such
>>>> appearances, not (just) the appearances. [It's
>>>>> not clear to me how
>>>> far
>>>>> to go with this seeming analogy between the way a
>>>>> mirror reflects
>>>> and the
>>>>> way the brain/Cs 'reflects the rest of nature'.] So
>>>>> any
>>>> descriptive,
>>>>> intuitionist phenomenology must be rejected. What really
>>>> exists? A
>>>>> materialist maintains that the brain exists, and consciousness
>>>>> too. V
>>>>> cites
>>>>> Lenin to the effect that what is matter, what is
>>>> objective,
>>>>> is what exists
>>>>> independently of human consciousness. And,
>>>> seemingly
>>>>> paradoxically,
>>>>> consciousness can exist outside our
>>>> consciousness: for we can
>>>>> be conscious
>>>>> without being self-conscious. I
>>>> can see without knowing that I
>>>>> see. So a
>>>>> general psychology must study
>>>> consciousness, but to know the mind
>>>>> we can't
>>>>> rely on introspection, in
>>>> part because in introspection mind splits
>>>>> into
>>>>> subject and object: a
>>>> dualism arises in the act of self-reflection.
>>>>> We
>>>>> can't
>>>>> establish a
>>>> psychological science only on the basis of what we
>>>>> experience
>>>>> directly
>>>> (as Husserl tried to do); it must be based on knowledge,
>>>>> which is
>>>>> the
>>>> result of analysis, not merely of experience. And what is
>>>>> analysis?
>>>> Complicated answer put briefly: analysis lies at the intersection
>>>>> of
>>>> methodology and practice: it is the exhaustive study of a single case
>>>>> in
>>>>> all
>>>>> its connections, taken as a social microcosm. It involves what
>>>> Marx
>>>>> (following Hegel) called abstraction.
>>>>> I'll confess I'm still
>>>> not
>>>>> clear what V is proposing as the solutions to
>>>>> the
>>>> epistemological and
>>>>> ontological problems that he has distinguished. It
>>>> looks
>>>>> to me as though
>>>>> he is saying that the epistemological problem -
>>>> that
>>>>> concerning the relation
>>>>> between subject and object - arises only
>>>> when one
>>>>> accepts uncritically the
>>>>> dualism that arises in introspection
>>>> (or 'blind
>>>>> empiricism'?). So once one
>>>>> rejects introspection this
>>>> problem dissolves.
>>>>> The
>>>>> implication is that if
>>>>> one begins not with
>>>> introspection but with
>>>>> practice,
>>>>> one avoids any
>>>>> subject-object
>>>> dualism. The ontological problem -
>>>>> concerning
>>>>> the relation
>>>>> between
>>>> mind and matter - is what he's trying to study, no?
>>>>> How
>>>>> is a
>>>> brain-in-a-body-in-a-social-world the basis for consciousness, then
>>>> self-consciousness, then self-mastery and knowledge?
>>>>> Hmmm
>>>> Martin
>>>>>> Hi Martin,
>>>>>> I found it --- in Russian, vol.1 of
>>>> "Sobranie Sochinenii", on
>>>>> page 416.
>>>>>> It reads in Russian as very
>>>> similar to the English quote your
>>>>> posted
>>>>> above:
>>>>>> "Ã≠åÀÃπ --
>>>> after all-- ê╺à åÓãîëÃπÃ&shy;ûì êà ìÃ&shy;åì ìÃ
>> Ôå╺èÃ
>>> ëèçìÃ
>>>>> -- a corneestone
>>>>> of
>>>> materialism -- ÿâëÿåÔñÿ ïîëîÜåÃ&shy;èå î Ôîì, -- is a
>>>>> proposition about, ---
>>>>> ÷Ôî
>>>>>> ñîçÃ&shy;à Ã&shy;èå è ìîçã åñÔÃπ ï╺îÀÓêÔ ---
>> (that)
>>>>> consciousness and the
>>>> brain are,
>>>>>> both, a product (of nature),--- ÷à ñÔÃπ
>>>>> ï╺è╺îÀû, ---(and) a
>>>> part of
>>>>> nature, --
>>>>>> îÔ╺à Üà ï¬≠Ã’Ã ï¬≠öà ÿ îñÔà ëÃπÃ&shy;Óï¬≠
>> ï╺è╺îÀÓ
>>>>> -- (the one)
>>>> that reflects the rest of
>>>>>> nature"
>>>>>> Or something like
>>>> this.
>>>>>> Hope this is helpful, and not making things more
>>>> confusing.
>>>>>> Cheers,
>>>>>> Natalia.
>>>>> On 11/30/06 2:47
>>>> PM, "Natalia Gajdamaschko"
>>>>> wrote:
>>>> On Thu, 30 Nov 2006 08:55:29 -0500
>>>>> wrote:
>>>>>> A few pages later:
>>>>>>> ""After all,
>>>>> a cornerstone of
>>>> materialism is the proposition that
>>>>>>> consciousness and
>>>>> the brain are
>>>> a product, a part of nature, which
>>>>> reflect
>>>>>>> the rest of
>>>>> nature"
>>>> (327).
>>>>>>> The last sentence is not grammatical English, so
>>>> something has clearly
>>>>>> gone
>>>>>>> wrong with the translation.
>>>>>> If
>>>>> anyone has access to the original Russian and could comment,that
>>>>>> would
>>>>> be
>>>>>>> great. (Page numbers are from the version in The
>>>> Essential
>>>>> Vygotsky.)
>>>>>>> Martin
>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>>> xmca mailing list
>>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>> xmca mailing
>>>> list
>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>>> xmca mailing list
>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>> xmca mailing list
>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>> xmca mailing list
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> xmca mailing list
>> Andy Blunden : tel (H) +61 3 9380 9435, AIM
>> identity: AndyMarxists mobile 0409 358 651
>> _______________________________________________
>> xmca mailing list
>> ---------------------------------
>> Want to start your own business? Learn how on Yahoo! Small Business.
>> _______________________________________________
>> xmca mailing list
> Andy Blunden : tel (H) +61 3 9380 9435, AIM
> identity: AndyMarxists mobile 0409 358 651
> _______________________________________________
> xmca mailing list

xmca mailing list

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Wed Jan 03 2007 - 07:06:17 PST